In the TRD, Toyota rolls out the sportiest Camry yet.
The Toyota Camry needs little introduction. After all, it has served as America’s best-selling car model for 17 consecutive years. This midsize sedan now offers something else few competitors have: available all-wheel drive.
Now in its eighth generation, the Camry gains a new TRD trim. Also, Android Auto joins Apple CarPlay in the smartphone connectivity realm, an important move that saves customers from upgrading to a costly navigation system.
Finally, the 2021 Camry features a new grille, new wheels, and a floating multimedia screen. The usual options and package changes round out the updates for the new model year.
2020/2021 Toyota Camry TRD Review
We’re concentrating on the all-new TRD trim for this review, but we’ll touch on the other trims as we see fit. The 2021 TRD is priced from $31,170 plus a $955 destination charge. The other trims include the LE, SE, SE Nightshade, XLE, and the XSE. Yes, our test vehicle was a 2020 model, but we’re sharing 2021 details to reflect the current model year.
All Camry TRD models are front-wheel drive and come with a V6 engine paired with an automatic transmission.
The TRD isn’t like any Camry we’ve seen to date. At least not one from Toyota. Sure, you may have seen a Camry equipped with aftermarket enhancements, but these are typically added by the owner, not by the factory or at the dealer level. Until recently, Toyota Racing Development (TRD) concentrated mostly on enhancing the brand’s sports cars and pickup trucks. Now, both the Camry and large Avalon sedan benefit from the available upgrades.
Lots of special features are included with the TRD such as Bi-LED combination headlights with black accents, black painted outside mirrors and window trim, a TRD gloss black pedestal rear spoiler (wing), a front splitter, side aero skirts, and a rear diffuser with red pinstriping. The TRD cat-back exhaust with polished stainless-steel tips is also unique to this trim. Like the XSE, this one comes with 19-inch wheels: but on this trim these are a TRD design.
Put together, the TRD takes what’s already a much more aggressive look for the Camry (especially since its 2018 overhaul) to provide the sportiest visage yet. It’s almost surprising for a model that was once downright bland, but we think Toyota pulled it off. There’s a lot going on with this vehicle – sharp lines, an oversized gaping grille, multiple ridges and bulges, and divergent angles. It’s not a design for everyone even though the Camry is an everyday automobile.
We think the available color schemes are especially interesting. You have a choice of four: midnight black metallic, celestial silver metallic ($500), supersonic red ($500), and wind chill pearl ($925). The last three are two-tone with black metallic paint offering a fitting contrast.
Word has it that the take rate for V6 Camrys is only about 6 percent. Thus, Toyota has committed to evenly dividing production between V6 XLE, V6 XSE, and TRD trims. This means only 6,000 units of each V6 trim are produced annually. We think the supersonic red will be the hardest to find as it offers more pop than the other choices.
True to most sedans, the best seat inside the roomy Camry TRD are in the front row. The buckets seats, dressed all in black, look especially sharp. They’re comfortable with ample padding and sufficient bolstering present.
Move to the rear seat and the story changes. It isn’t that the seats are uncomfortable, rather that access and egress is challenging due to the sloping roofline.
What we do appreciate is the legroom. There’s ample room for a tall passenger to fit inside and move around. We’ve found ourselves disappointed in some midsize models, but not with the Camry.
All trims except for the TRD have a 60/40 split fold-down rear seat that supplies access to the trunk measuring 15.1 cubic feet. Alas, the TRD has a fixed rear seat.
The list of standard features includes air conditioning, full power accessories, a leather-trimmed tilt-and telescopic steering wheel with red stitching, an overhead console with map lights and sunglasses storage, six bottle holders, and aluminum sport pedals.
Other TRD features include TRD start-up animation and red-illuminated accents in the instrument panel, imitation leather seats with red stitching and red seat belts, and special logo touches. We find this trim features the right kind of embellishments for an already modern interior.
For some odd reason the TRD doesn’t match the XLE and XSE trim in tech amenities. Likely, that’s due to the TRD placing an emphasis on trim and suspension enhancements over other things. Instead, the TRD comes equipped with the features offered in the standard model. At least the offering should be sufficient for most.
Here, Toyota equips the TRD with a 7-inch touch-screen display. You’ll also find a 6-speaker audio package, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone compatibility, Amazon Alexa compatibility, one USB media port and one USB charge port, Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio, and connected services.
Oddly, Toyota shows an upgrade to its Audio Plus with JBL package on the media site, but not on the consumer site. Apparently, you can get a 9-inch touch-screen display and bundle that with the 9-speaker JBL audio system and get Wi-Fi Connect thrown in. You’ll need to ask your dealer about this discrepancy.
Navigation is not available with the TRD. That’s no loss as your smartphone app can take you there.
Every Camry trim comes with the Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ bundle. This one includes automatic high beams, a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, lane-tracing assist, road sign assist, dynamic radar cruise control. On most trims, full-speed range dynamic radar cruise control is standard.
But Toyota doesn’t stop there – blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert is included with the XLE trim and above. You get a full suite of safety features in the TRD, including some that would cost you extra in a luxury model. These features build on what Toyota already has in place, namely a suite of 10 airbags, stability and traction control, electronic brake-force distribution, and smart stop technology.
On the safety score front, the 2020 Camry earned a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and a 5-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in crash testing.
The midsize segment is in the midst of a wholesale shift from a blend of V6 and inline-four-cylinder engines to an almost all four-cylinder mix. Honda was the most recent manufacturer to ditch a V6 in the Accord in favor of a turbocharged engine, following on the heels of Nissan with the Altima.
For 2021, Toyota continues with its standard four and available V6 option. This year, they’ve added available all-wheel drive with the base engine. This option has become increasingly popular with Nissan, Kia, and Toyota offering it, while Subaru keeps it standard with the Legacy. In past years we’ve seen it on a pair of defunct models: the Chrysler 200 and Ford Fusion Sport. Figure that offering all-wheel drive is one initiative manufacturers employ to keep vehicle owners in the sedan fold by offering a feature that’s common with crossovers.
The standard engine in most Camry models is a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder motor with upwards of 206 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. These numbers are laudable as most engines in this class don’t crack 190 horsepower (188 with the Altima).
Upgrading to a V6 is reserved for the top trims. This one makes 301 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. Like the base engine, the V6 works with an 8-speed automatic transmission with sequential shift mode. This means you have the option of controlling the transmission shift points with the shifter.
The TRD model comes with the V6 only. There is no power advantage with it as it develops the same horsepower delivered in the XLE and XSE trims. There is a slight drop in fuel efficiency though as this model is rated 22 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway for a combined 25 mpg. That’s down 1 mpg over the other two trims.
On the other hand, the standard engine is all about efficiency with its EPA rating of 28 mpg city, 39 mpg highway for a combined 32 mpg. Choose all-wheel drive and the combined fuel economy falls by as much as 4 mpg.
We’re pleased with Toyota’s V6 engine and have tested it in a variety of models including the Avalon, Tacoma, and Sienna. It’s a strong workhorse, cranking out ample power the moment you step on the gas pedal and by supplying sufficient boost when traveling down the highway.
In TRD guise, the Camry demonstrates its sporty side with a delicious cat-back exhaust system resonating throughout the cabin. The suspension sits slightly lower to the ground and benefits from stiff dampers and thick sway bars. Larger brakes and summer tires are other distinctives to set this vehicle apart. This also translates into a firm ride and that’s something to keep in mind when evaluating Camry trims.
We found the Camry TRD likeable in nearly every area. Sure, this is still a front-wheel-drive model, but it remains relatively composed on twisty roads. It doesn’t hold up in cornering as well as a rear-wheel-drive model, with some pitching and diving detected. But that’s not its mission: the TRD is all about the look and feel of performance without the all-around chops. It reminds us of the Nissan Maxima and that’s not a bad thing.
Sidebar: Toyota also offers a Camry Hybrid. This one comes with a 2.5-liter inline-four-cylinder engine generating 176 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque. An electric motor also sends power to the front wheels by utilizing a continuously variable transmission. When working in conjunction with the gas engine, this duo produces 208 horsepower. A lithium-ion battery pack stores power, which is derived from the engine and through regenerative braking. Toyota prices the 2020 Camry Hybrid from $28,430 (2021 prices not available as of this writing).
The midsize sedan may have lost ground to crossovers, but it remains a solid first-vehicle choice for many American drivers. Firstly, because there are so many choices available. Secondly, because the price point for most models starts below $25,000. You’d be hard-pressed to find a midsize crossover costing under $30,000.
In this segment, the Honda Accord and Nissan Altima remain the top sellers after the Camry. Other models to consider include the Subaru Legacy, Volkswagen Passat, Kia K5, Chevrolet Malibu, Mazda6, and the Hyundai Sonata. Models from Dodge, Chrysler, Mitsubishi, and Ford are no more. Other brands with mainstay models have disappeared along the way, including Oldsmobile, Mercury, Saturn, Plymouth, and Pontiac.
We didn’t mention the Buick Regal or the Kia Stinger, because these are hatchback/sportback models. The Regal is built by Opel and shipped to the U.S. That model is in its final year as GM discontinues importing the hatchback and TourX wagon versions of this midsize model. As for the Stinger, it comes with standard rear-wheel drive and available all-wheel drive.
Would you be satisfied with the Camry TRD? You might, especially if you’re already a Camry fan. On the other hand, if you’re a performance maven, then this isn’t the model for you.
Instead, Toyota faithful should look at the 86 and GR Supra, as each offers a level of driving fun the Camry cannot touch. Otherwise, if it is the Camry you like, we think any trim powered by the available V6 engine should satisfy most drivers desirous of a performance edge.
2021 Toyota Camry TRD Specifications
|Toyota||2021 Camry TRD|
|Price Range||From $31,170|
|Standard Engine||3.5-liter, V6|
|Horsepower||301 @ 6,600 RPMs|
|Torque (lb.-ft.)||267 @ 4,700 RPMs|
|Curb Weight (pounds)||3,575|
|Head room (f,r — inches)||38.3, 38.0|
|Leg room (f,r — inches)||42.1, 38.0|
|Shoulder room (f,r — inches)||57.7, 55.7|
|Hip room (f,r — inches)||55.4, 54.7|
|Storage (cubic feet)||15.1|
|Gross vehicle weight (pounds)||NR|
|Fuel Tank (gallons)||15.8|
|EPA Fuel MPG (city/highway/combined)||22/31/25|
|Manufacturing Plant||Georgetown, Kentucky|
See Also — Toyota Camry Hybrid: Big Fuel Savings
Images copyright Toyota Motors. All rights reserved.